Friday, September 30, 2005

This Week's Site of the Week: City Hippy

You might know that every week over on my business web site I feature a new Site of the Week. These are just sites I run across that I think are worth sharing, and sometimes, yes, they are shameless plugs for new client sites or my own new blogs.

This week rather than a client site I feature a site I found while getting to know a new client, City Hippy. City Hippy finds all the cool progressive and green resources and stories out there, so you don't have to. They provide links to articles, cool sites, and also ways for people to post what they're looking for (in the way of green and/or fair products) and what they've found. They even provide a list of the goals they seek achieve to move towards a greener, fairer life, and links to sites that can help anyone achieve each goal.

What's fascinating, putting my business hat on, is how they've taken a basic implementation of their site and really worked with it to make a site that seems interactive and customized, even though it is clearly a basic Blogger template. I could take a few lessons from them on this and a couple of my other older Blogger-based blogs.

Recently one of my good blogging friends, the Marketing Diva herself, took me a little bit to task for the basic implementation on my 42nd St. Moon theatre blog. Content: 10; Looks: 3. (Little Chorus Line reference for those of you keeping track.)

While I agree, part of me somehow has this non-marketing, but old-school bloggy attitude that the content is more important, that a non-profit org. has better things to spend money on than fancifying their blog, and most ego-centric of all...that if I don't really notice whether people are using standard templates or not, nobody else in the whole wide world will either. Kinda crazy. And obviously I went to great lengths to make the hip&zen blog look like its home site. So perhaps I'm just resisting working with Blogger's clunky-ness to update my older blogs.

But back to City Hippy and my point, because I did have one: they clearly are using a standard Blogger template; they've customized it in little ways, but basically it looks exactly like other blogs out there...but the content is so valuable, their purpose so clear, their delivery on their mission so impassioned...I ask you: does the template matter in this case?

I obviously don't think so, hence they are my Site of the Week.

Toby? Anyone? What do you think?

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Santa Cruz extended version of chicken column

Took 'em 3 weeks, but they published the extended version of the chicken rescue column in the Metro Santa Cruz.

Yes, it's a little gruesome, as one of my friends told me, but you are what you eat, so you should know what that entails.

Web 2.0: versioning the web? Huh?

Once a topic becomes talked to death I tend to stay away from it. The recent discussions about how to define Web 2.0 is one such topic. But much as the conversation has been bugging me, I can't seem to resist adding a take on it that popped into my head during a bit of insomnia at 4AM this morning.

See, people are talking about what "Web 2.0" is: Complex. No, really simple. No, not that simple. And they're asking: What do you think it is? And they're saying, "Screw 2.0, let's leapfrog to 2.1!

And I'm thinking: Oh. My. God. Get. Off. The. Hypetrain!

Now, now, I hope no one gets their knickers in a twist, of course I mean that in the nicest possible way. But, honestly, why does anyone think the web needs a version to begin with?

I'll step back and tell you why the very concept seems so weird to me. In my former high-tech life one of my areas of expertise was product development processes. It was sort of a natural extension of running product management...since product management is caught between engineering and sales, yet somehow responsible for everyone, you tend to want to define and enforce processes. I'm not fantasizing that most companies are actually good at this, but most companies at least try.

So, let me tell you what versioning means to me, whether version 1.0, a newly released product, or version 5.a.d, the 4th bug fix dot release on a minor dot release.

It means that somewhere along the line someone probably defined what the requirements were...hopefully to serve the user. It means that somewhere along the line someone responded with a specification that was reviewed and approved. It means that, hold on to your hats, somewhere along the line a schedule was created, milestones were defined, and somehow it was defined when the version was ready for testing, trials and ultimately, release. There are usually measures for whether you have met your goals for a release or not. At some point a release is delivered, and the case is closed. Further requirements and bugs are collected for the next release.

So perhaps it makes me inflexible, and too literal, but I don't understand why we're trying to "version" the entire web as though it were some monolithic product to which you can apply any of the principles of product development or life cycle processes. I fail to see how this serves the average user of the web. I mean I can see it serves people seeking funding or consultants (yes, consultants like me, I know) or writers or any number of people immersed in the industry. I can see how we'd all like to talk about the big picture from our ivory towers. But how does it serve the user to define the undefinable? They won't be buying products that tout their "Web 2.0 compliance" will they? I feel like it's a big leap off the Cluetrain to obsess about this.

So, to answer Om's question: how do I define Web 2.0? I don't.

Is that so wrong?

Happy to take the blame

I mentioned I sat on a panel last week, "Vlogging and Blogging and Podcasts, Oh My!." [Here's my recap.] One of my co-panelists was Betty Sullivan, she of the renowned Betty's List.

Well, Betty has started Betty's Blog, and she's blaming it on me :) I am happy to take the blame. As I told Betty, I think she has her own distinct voice that you can hear coming through the screen (helps to know she has a Southern accent.) And she clearly has a following. She started the blog a few days ago, and I can see the hits coming over to me from there already.

Why would Betty be inspired to start a blog? After all, her list is already pretty damn popular...having grown literally from an email list to the site it is today. Well, her site; her mission is about her community. What are blogs good for? Say it with me: connection, conversation and community. Perfect fit IMHO.

Welcome to blogging , Betty. Hope you like it...since I'm to blame and all.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Carnival of the Capitalists is here

The Carnival of the Capitalists is up. I submitted, and they accepted, my Myth of the Mainstream post.

Check out the Carnival and read the best in business blogging this week.

Another Worker Bees blog is born: the hip & zen pen

Today I am pleased to send out a birth announcement for the latest Worker Bees blog: the hip & zen pen found at

The blog is an offshoot from the ecommerce site,, a store that specializes in products that satisfy a modern aesthetic and a progressive ethos. Products like recycled purses and cashmere sweaters, organic cotton yoga wear, vegan handbags and more.

Former software entrepreneur Karen Clothier left the tech life not certain what she was heading towards. But once she dreamed up the kind of store she'd like to see it took her only 90 days to go from idea to launch. I knew we were on the same wavelength within minutes of our first sit-down. She may be more into yoga and life balance; I may be more into vegetarianism and political activism, btu we both firmly believe you can do business and do good.

Karen wanted to find new ways to reach out to the people who would enjoy the products in her online store, and she wanted to share the kind of information she picks up every day while investigating the latest trends for hip & zen.

So is born the blog. Please visit us there, and don't go too crazy with it, but blog readers get an extra 5% off their entire purchase! The promotion code is in the upper left hand corner of the blog. Come for the cool content, leave with a 5% discount :)

Check out the hip & zen pen!

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Good Managers Reward Good Employees

Last night I was out with a friend for her birthday. She was recently promoted to a Director position at a significant public company in Silicon Valley. From what I can gather from talking with her husband (who is less modest about her achievements than she is) she has been a superstar there in the Product management department for some time.

I asked her last night how she liked her new role, and the primary feeling she expressed was guilt. Guilt that she had gotten a promotion and guilt that she was only working ten hour days and then logging on again from home after the kids went to bed. Guilt that drove her to tell her boss that sure, she would be online this weekend, while up in the City with her husband (and without their three kids) for her birthday. She spoke as though her boss had done her a favor promoting her.

I tried to give her the following pep talk:

Her boss sounded simply like he was a good boss doing the right thing. The reason she felt so indebted to her boss for promoting her was that there are really so few good bosses out there. Many bosses look out for themselves, taking the credit for the good, blaming the team for the bad. Many bosses really don't want to surround themselves with the smartest possible people, because they want to be the smartest person in the room.

Her boss didn't promote her to do her a favor. He promoted her because he knew she was valuable. He knew she made him look good with every accomplishment or achievement. He knew that her skills would help her contribute even more in a higher responsibility position. Perhaps he knew that he could off-load some of his own burden with her in an elevated position. Send her to higher level meetings. Give her higher level tasks. Transfer some of his reports to her. Whatever.

Not only that, he knew that employees will continue to bust their asses when they feel appreciated and rewarded. Despite what some Silicon Valley execs may think, people simply do not feel "lucky just to have a job." It is not human nature to feel that way even during lean times. Not if you're contributing, anyway.

The one and only thing I really miss about corporate life is having a team to go to bat for. My experience is that even in the lean times you can get valuable employees bonuses, raises, promotions if you are willing to stick your neck out and ask, and of course, can make the case to justify what you're requesting. It's just that too few managers are willing to do either part of the equation.

But the reward is loyalty. Hard work. A satisfied team. And call m crazy. I think that gets you better results.

BusinessWeek profile of one of my geek girl crushes: Marissa Mayer

BusinessWeek has published a profile of Marissa Meyer, a Director at Google, and someone I find admirable from what little I know of her. I saw Marissa speak on a panel last year and was disappointed that the moderator did not seem to get what a great resources she had, preferring to discuss a topic I, as a single childless woman, am tired of hearing about at every single women-oriented event I attend: balancing a family and work.

Somethings really jump out at me from the profile.

1. Yes, there is the obligatory physical description: "The woman charged with helping come up with Google's response is a tall, striking blonde with blue eyes. At 30, Mayer still carries herself with the erect posture of the ballet dancer she was in her youth." Actually, I can easily imagine a male exec being described as tall, striking, even as having good posture...perhaps "retaining the swagger of the boxing he did in his youth." Being blonde and blue-eyed? Probably wouldn't be noted in a profile of a male. [Check out Havi Hoffman's recap on the Yahoo! Search Blog of a recent SD Forum SIG meeting to see some sartorial description of the male panelists!]

2. The column is so rife with cliches. PhDs vs. MBAs, engineers vs. marketing, geeks vs. business-types. Yes, it's hard to deny those cliches do exist. I do wonder, however, whether part of Google's (or any other truly successful Silicon Valley company's) success is that they do not fall prey to the stereotypes as easily as other more mediocre companies. I'd like to see that explored, personally.

3. Mayer sounds like she executes good time management practices, and yet they still note that a "typical" work day is 9AM-Midnight. That's just brutal. People wonder why Silicon Valley is full of young guns? And I also wonder whether shooting down someone's idea really leads Mayer to issue "withering rebukes." It's all part of the Silicon Valley ethos that I don't like...a harshness that seems all very primitive and chest-beating, but doesn't really elevate the discussion or lead to better results.

4. I'm really wondering when Mayer gets added to their Exec. Team. Her responsibilities sound huge...and tremendously impactful. Her work ethic sounds intense. Her visibility and the good press she brings to Google has been increasing over the last year or two. And scanning the exec photos I see no shortage of young faces (starting with the founders of course) so her relative youth (30 years old) shouldn't be a limiting factor at a company like Google.

The description of Mayer's day-to-day life at Google is fascinating, and actually explains a lot about how Google ended up sponsoring BlogHer. See, I cold-emailed Mayer. Told her I was an admirer (with the blog links to prove it luckily.) Told her someone at the pre-SuperNova dinner had suggested her as a good person to contact at Google re: BlogHer sponsorship. And asked her to pass me along to the right person, if it wasn't her. And she did. And that person actually passed me to a third person. But never did they let the ball drop. Google was an absolutely essential sponsor. And the profile makes pretty clear that listening to new ideas and being open to them is a big part of Mayer's job, and that if she passes something through people pay attention.

So now you know: I have a geek girl crush. Marissa Mayer may be a decade younger than I, but she is still a role model. (And as I sit here in my 5th hour of working on a Sunday morning I guess I shouldn't get too down on a culture of 15 hour days.)

Saturday, September 24, 2005

UPDATED: The Myth of the "Mainstream": A Seminar Recap that tell us where we really are!

Last week I sat on a panel in San Francisco entitled, "Vlogging & blogging & podcasts, oh my!" The panelists were actually a mixed bunch of folks that don't actually blog or podcast or vlog, and a couple of us who do. And I was definitely the only one who takes blogging to such extremes (tomorrow I'm launching my 9th blog, and 6th one for a client: the hip & zen pen.)

The audience members, far as I could tell, were well on their way to being consumers of, at the very least, text blogs, but not very far down the path of becoming creators. There were a smattering of PR agency reps, journalists, marketing and development folks from non-profits, and just a few people more closely aligned with the industry, such as podcaster Michael Rice and Loomia founder David Marks. Whatever their backgrounds, the majority were still on the outside of this trend looking in.

The panel served as a stark reminder that while we in the industry may be bored, filled with ennui, completely over certain basic questions about blogging etc., the vast majority of folks beginning their investigation of this trend are decidedly not!

The questions from the audience, and even the moderator, still included:
-What is "new media?"
-Are bloggers journalists?
-Is this a fad?
-What's the difference between a blog and a web site?
-Aren't blogs just diaries?
-Don't you need a lot of complicated equipment/coding knowledge to create any form of blog, text, audio or video?
And so on.

It is extremely valuable for me to talk to groups such as this one...populated by people outside the space...rather than preach to the converted at the various blog or social media-focused seminars and events. The latter are certainly terrific for networking, but the former keep me grounded in the reality of where we are in terms the evolution of this technology's adoption into the mainstream.

I recently commented on a post at J Wynia's blog on this very subject of "mainstream." I had a conversation as early as this past February with an industry bigwig who believed I was totally wrong if I didn't believe that blogging had gone past the mythic Gladwellian "tipping point." I still think he was smoking crack.

The numbers, though growing nicely, still indicate that the vast majority of online denizens still don't know much about blogging, and even less about podcasts, vlogs and even RSS. And these are online folks, so you can imagine that those who are not online much know next to nothing about it.

This does not qualify as "mainstream", which is defined as the "prevailing" practice of a culture or society.

So, why am I nitpicking about this definition of mainstream, and about whether blogging etc. as reached it? Does it matter to me or my business all that much. I mean, I'm doing pretty well working with folk who are out there enough on the cutting edge to want to work in this space, so who cares?

Well, I care for two reasons, one selfish and one selfless:

Selfishly I want to keep being able to grow my business. I'm doing great, but one doesn't start a business to stay in one place, one wants to expand, to grow, to hire, to create new models. So evangelizing this technology is critical. And that means you have to be able to communicate to people who don't know what the hell you're talking about without a) making them feel stupid or b) drowning them in language that assumes a knowledge or acceptance that just isn't there.

I care for another reason: because we in this industry believe in the power of these connect, to communicate, to, I'll say it, change the world. Not just for those of us who are already involved, but for those who are traditionally less at the forefront of technological evolutions, but who need connection and community perhaps more than anyone.

If we can reach out and engage with those who are not already in the tech world. If we can convince them to start using this technology. If we can get them to get their elderly parents or their disaffected youth to give it a shot...then we will have accomplished more than building businesses and creating viable business models. We will helped people raise their voice and take concrete actions!

When regular people who couldn't care less about technology, except about how they can use it, are using it in these ways...then we will be part of the mainstream. And it could be a beautiful thing!

UPDATED: J Wynia writes a nice responsive post to this one, on which I couldn't resist further commenting of course. Check it out..

Thursday, September 22, 2005

2 Letters to the Editor in the Metro support the chickens!

PDF here. (So, I'll understand if you want to take my word for it.)

Of course I suspect the Norfolk VA letter writer is a PETA rep, as they've written to the Metro in support of my articles before. But they usually identify themselves as PETA, so maybe it is just a random NOrfolk person reading the Silicon Valley Metro.

Score one for the chickens.

Off to brainstorm re: BlogHer

I'm off to spend 2 days planning and scheming with my BlogHer partners. And being only a wanna-be geek, as opposed to a true geek, I am not laptop-enabled. Nor have I mastered the art of moblogging because my fingers just are not as agile as today's youth on those teeny tiny keys.

So have a good week Worker Bees.

HP ups the ante on eBay charity auction for Katrina

According to a little bird: "Today HP is announcing that it will match the bids, up to $1000 for each photo."

So, check out that auction and do more good.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Yahoo PPC: time is money people!

I already wrote one rant about how I was just about ready to give up on using Yahoo Search Marketing altogether. It's not just that it's feature-poor when compared to Google ads, it's that the service is slow, unreliable, buggy.

Today they finally made a concession to accepted best customer service practices and communicated to their customers. Such a shock. Here was the message:


We are currently experiencing intermittent delays and slowness in our account management system. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you. We are working to resolve this issue as quickly as possible. Thank you for your patience.

Yeah? What patience?

Every day the incremental addition of minutes of my time to maintain my various PPC programs is adding up. I'm a consultant, so time literally is money. Where do I line up for my refund?

A new milestone: interviewed in Greenhouse Grower Magazine!

A couple of months ago I gave a virtual seminar for the Stanford Publishing Courses about blogging in the publishing world. It was interesting because the audience were all savvy publishing folks with high interest in and awareness of blogging, but the various publications for which they were responsible ran the gamut. One such publication was Greenhouse Grower, a magazine targeted toward, well, you know.

One of their writers interviewed me and this month published her resulting article Blogging to Grow.

Unfortunately their magazine is not fully online, so I can't post a link, but here were some of my key quotes:

"It takes a strong personality to decide to be an entrepreneur. They should feature themselves and use their voices"

"Companies are afraid of blogging because they think they'll lose control, but they already don't have control. Even a complaint is useful to a company. It's certainly more useful to hear the complaint directly than to have a bunch of people complaining elsewhere about you online, which has a impact that you aren't even aware of."

Staff writer Sara Tambascio does a nice job with the article. My one quibble is that while she printed the URLs of all the various small business blogs she pointed to as examples she never put my URL anywhere in the article! I am quoted and referenced throughout, but people will still have to Google me or Worker Bees to find my site or blog :(

Ah well, I still think it's pretty cool to be in Greenhouse Grower Magazine! Now that's really spreading the message beyond the usual tech/marketing confines!

Monday, September 19, 2005

Online Celebrity Auction for charity is also test-case for blog marketing

First things first:

HP is sponsoring an auction on eBay to benefit the victims of Hurricane Katrina. It is comprised of recent, autographed photographs from some of today's biggest stars.

How it came about it an interesting story of applying branding and marketing to a good cause.

Every year Toronto hosts a film festival in September, and for the last few years HP has sponsored taking portraits of the stars to help promote their films around town. The studios and actors want the films promoted. HP gets branding on the poster and photos. Plus HP hopes the studios become familiar with their cool photographic product line and that they get some cinematic product placement as a result.

This year they though, why not take those posters and photos, have them autographed and auction them off post-festival. Its a win-win-win for all involved. from the actors to the studios to HP.

How they're marketing it now is an interesting story of how you can still execute a marketing campaign within days, not months, thanks to blogs and other online community software.

That story is told in full on Susan Getgood's blog here. Suffice to say with this auction only lasting days there's not a lot of time to create print ads or a big campaign...they're going to straight to blogs and to celebrity fan forums and communities.

And I guess I'm part of the experiment by posting about it here.

So check out the auction and do some good today.

Carnival of the Capitalists is up at WILLisms

And he swears that this week's Carnival is in completely random order.

I submitted my Note to Hollywood.

So go enjoy the Carnival.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Note to Hollywood: what you can learn from The Daily Show

Great interview in Wired with Daily Show host Jon Stewart and his partner Ben Karlin.

Here are two key excerpts to provide food for thought for those Hollywood types who want to muck with iTunes Music Store's success and want to turn TiVo into a mini-anti-fair-use machine:

In the six years since Stewart took over, the audience for The Daily Show has grown almost threefold to 1.4 million viewers a night. It boasts a legion of young, smart fans who are among the most demographically desirable audiences in the industry - further collapsing the caste distinctions between networks and cable. It has raised the bar for tie-ins, with a best-seller (America [The Book] has sold a stunning 2.5 million copies), a hit DVD (Indecision 2004), and - starting in October - a full-fledged spinoff (The Colbert Report). And The Daily Show may be the most popular TV program on the Internet.


"Ben Karlin: "If people want to take the show in various forms, I'd say go. But when you're a part of something successful and meaningful, the rule book says don't try to analyze it too much or dissect it. You shouldn't say: "I really want to know what fans think. I really want to understand how people are digesting our show." Because that is one of those things that you truly have no control over. The one thing that you have control over is the content of the show. But how people are reacting to it, how it's being shared, how it's being discussed, all that other stuff, is absolutely beyond your ability to control."

So, let me get this straight: the Daily Show is one of the most heavily, let's say it, pirated TV shows out there. People are trading it online and therefore doing a lot worse than just skipping commercials (which TV exec types believe is literally "stealing" content.)

But what's the outcome? Huge loss in revenues? No, quite the opposite. TDS has built a cult following that buys their tie-in products without much serious consideration. They would probably buy a DVD of Stewart's home movies of his kid if it came with a Stewart commentary track. (Feel free to use the idea guys!)

I've been reading JD Lasica's Darknet: Hollywood's War Against the Digital Generation, and while I don't have quite the level of laissez-faire attitude that some digital freedom fighters have, I can certainly see that "Internet abuse" of The Daily Show has paid dividends for everyone involved.

Food for thought, Hollywood.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Another recap of Hurricane Katrina relief sites

I thought I'd post again a more complete list of sites where you can donate money, supplies or even time to help with the relief effort. This is going to be a long-term project, so if you feel tapped out on cash, perhaps you can donate time or supplies, or vice versa:

Here are some good general aid organizations to donate to:
Red Cross
America's Second Harvest
Humane Society of the US

Here are some more targeted sites:

Craigs List for Katrina Relief: Donations, volunteerism, people and housing locators, even employment opps for ssurvivors.
Project Backpack: (Helping kids get ready for school with supplies, clothing, books etc.)
Hurrican Katrina Direct Relief: Two Moms across the country from one another helping organize direct relief to individuals and families.
Katrina People Finder
Hurricane Housing, a project of

Usually I read some heart-rending story online or see it on the news and it sends me over to the computer to donate. It's quite a haphazard thing. Perhaps a cool way to do it would be to make a monthly action item in my Palm (complete with alarm) for the next 6 months to help a different one of these organizations each month.

How do you decide when to give and to whom?

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Reminded of the value of the un-conference

Last night I attended the inaugural meeting of a new SD Forum SIG about Search. I wrote in detail about the presentations over at the Browster blog here and here.

Dave Winer would be proud, but I had quite a few moments where I found myself thinking, gee, they need more of an unconference format.

Actually Search SIG co-chair Jeff Clavier, Mary Hodder and I have had a blogversation about panels vs. unconferences before.

I come down squarely in the middle :)

My issue with pure unconferences, or at least the one true example that I attended, was that it was way too moderator-dependent. And if the moderator only called on people he or she knew, or responded to every audience question with his or her own perspective before tossing it back out, then it got extremely tedious.

Meanwhile I certainly appreciate Mary's point of view that sometimes the audience is as talented and opinionated and well-versed as the panelists, and a 45 minute PowerPoint lecture can be even more tedious.

At BlogHer we tried to strike a happy medium. We had a moderator and speakers, but the moderator got out in the audience almost immediately and worked the crowd. In fact I have to say I wondered during the opening debate whether speakers Charlene Li and Halley Suitt were wondering what the hell was going on. They each spoke for about three minutes and then it rarely got back to them. The attendees, on the other hand, didn't give them a second thought and were avidly participating.

Back to last night: there were a few instances where the moderator, Doug Kaye, asked the panelists about what people wanted. Sometimes what content producers wanted, sometimes what content consumers wanted.

Gee, I thought, here are about 100-150 "people" right out here. Why don't you ask us? Sure they had Q&A at the end, but it's kind of funny to have a room full of the kinds of tech-savvy people that were in this crowd and be telling us what we want.

It's not that I didn't want to hear what the panelists had to say...they all had good things to say. BUt I also wanted more time to hear what we had to say!

I know Mary will also be proud :)

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Do you blog about technology? Do you like robots?

Oh, who doesn't like robots you might well ask!?

I'm doing a little work on RoboNexus Conference and Expo, the "largest robotics event in the Western Hemisphere"!

This event sounds really large and really comprehensive, with something for everyone from parents looking for a fun Saturday afternoon outing with the kids (Expo passes are very inexpensive) to developers and academics.

So, if you like robots check out RoboNexus:

For fun:

Or for professional development:

And if you're a technology blogger with a following they are looking to reach out to the online media/blogger world, and I do have some press passes.

Speaking Engagement: Vlogging and Blogging and Podcasts, Oh My!

Although I started Worker Bees with a handful of theatre clients, I've never actually spoken to a crowd of arts organizations on the topic. The theatres I work with are pretty bleeding edge for their segment. They were all either approached individually by me directly because of my personal relationships, or referred to me by one of my partners, Carla Befera who does PR for many theatres in the area.

Another PR agency who focuses on the arts and non-profit world is finally hosting and event for local groups to learn more about this channel for getting their message out. Actually they started out just inviting me per a request from one of their clients, but I mentioned to the moderator that he might want to have someone who actually is blogging for theatres talk about it, so open-minded fellow that he is, he invited me.

Should be fun!

Monday, September 12, 2005

This week's Carnival of the Capitalists at Crossroads Dispatch

Blog Buddy Evelyn Rodriguez hosts this week's massive Carnival of the Capitalists. I feel like learned something just by reading her descriptions!

I submitted, and she included my recent post: The Myth of Purity: are your readers guests or customers?

Great job Evelyn! And in case you wonder why the blogosphere is hot, the weekly COTC should enlighten you...truly deep, rich, well-written content on a breadth of topics that astounds.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

The Myth of Purity: are your readers guests or customers?

Lately I've seen discussions revive about various forms of online, or even more specifically, blogging "ethics."

Two examples are Susan Getgood's discussion of bloggers posting ethics policies and Darren Rowse's discussion of whether it's OK for commenters to leave "signatures" at the end of their comments.

And it seems to boil down to two questions you should ask yourself:

Are your readers your guests? Or your customers?
Are you a host? Or a service provider?

Can we just admit right now that there are a whole bunch of bloggers who don't give a fig about this entire discussion. Lots and lots of people blog for fun. Or for an outlet. Or to practice writing. And they blog because tools have made it an easy and independent process. There is no way it makes sense to discuss ethics or policies and expect it to apply across the board to all bloggers.

Ironically many of those bloggers who use and read blogs purely for personal expression and entertainment and education would be the most stringent policy-makers. They don't want to see ads. They don't care about traffic and don't want you to either. They feel perfectly within their rights to do whatever they want with posts or comments. To them the blogosphere seems almost like hallowed ground, a place of pure personal expression, unfettered by editors, filters etc. But there is absolutely no incentive for such bloggers to bother with official policies.

But we're not talking about those bloggers. We are talking now about bloggers who consider their blog some extension of their public or professional persona, and to therefore reflect on their character. And in many cases impact their business, whatever it may be.

And this is a segment in which I can see some conflict between the readers as guest vs. customer attitude. This is the segment in which I think the blogger has to have a clear sens eof which they consider themselves to be.

Let's take example #1: Blogger as host; readers are guests
Russell Beattie's blog. Russell has been quite clear that he considers his blog his space, and you are a guest there. To that end he has no compunction about deleting comments. He doesn't have this stated on his About page, but I've seen him post to this effect. Now, one could argue...this isn't just a personal blog. He talks technology, a lot. It's clear for whom he works. He runs at least one technical group (Mobile Mondays.) All true. There's no rule that says someone who blogs and refers to their professional life can't have the host/guest view of his or her blog. And Russell executes this style very well. Why do I think so? because he's not trying to be in business with his guests. If you go to someone's house for what you think is a nice dinner, and instead you find yourself in the middle of a pitch for something...well, nobody likes that. (Don't get me wrong: if you were invited to a Tupperware Party and showed up, that's fine.)

But here's example #2: Blogger as service provider, readers as potential customers
I personally consider Darren's ProBlogger site to fall into this category. I mean the name says it all, right? I want to be absolutely clear: I think this kind of blogging is absolutely fine. I have no false perspective that the blogosphere should remain pure and unsullied by commercial enterprise. I find it ironic that some strong blogvangelists out there have expressed dismay that their blogvangelizing actually worked, and they no longer control how the technology tool is being used. I, as is obvious from this very blog, think blogs are an amazing tool for business communications.

But once you blog in this fashion, the "host" attitude must change. Your readers are now potential customers and deserve the kind of care you would deliver to potential customers in the offline world. Does it mean you have to accept abuse, or profanity (if it offends you) or spam. No way. But as I said in the comment I left in Darren's post on comment signatures:

"...if you were a personal blogger, I might understand this concern for pure and promotion-free commenting. But you host a business blog, full of ads and self-promotional posts and links. It’s a very uni-directonal attitude."

[Of course, maybe Darren doesn't buy into the whole "markets are conversations" meme, and uni-directional is exactly what he was going for.]

There's no single answer for how bloggers should handle any part of their blog, from commenting policies, to self-disclosures (just as, I might add, there is no such monolithic answer for web sites in general.) I vote we stop looking for sweeping policies that could be applied to all. Perhaps we should all just add a line to the top of our blogs that said "Welcome Invited Guests" or "Welcome Valued Customers."

Both statements are warm and welcoming. But they raise very different expectations from the blogger, don't you think?

Thursday, September 08, 2005

This month's Silicon Veggie column

Chickens: they make great pets. Surprised? You shouldn't be.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

This week's Carnival of the Capitalists

Is being hosted over at rethink(ip).

Now COTC, as it is called by those in the know...or those who can acronymize anyway, is a bit bigger than the Grand Rounds I hosted last week at Healthy Concerns. I know the work that goes into these things, and the COTC is massive, so kudos to Douglas, the proprietor of rethink(ip).

Lots of good writing out there. And given the impact that Hurricane Katrina (and its aftermath) has had on us all, the Carnival of the Capitalists is sounding surprisingly altruistic this week.

Check it out and enjoy.

(And yes, I think I made up the word "acronymize", but I like it, don't you?)

UPDATE: Forgot to mention that this week's COTC links to my post about FooCamp and BarCamp and the Myth of Objectivity.

The ASPCA Hurricane Katrina Rescue Diary

Keep tabs on how their efforts our progressing across the affected regions.

I often talk about how non-profits could really marshal the power of blogs to establish closer, more loyal connections with their potential volunteers and donors.

The ASPCA isn't calling this a blog, but it is essentially a blog.

See your favorite charity in action. See the positive results. See how other people are contributing their time and effort, and how rewarding it is for them.

In the now. Not in some glossy brochure sent by the thousands to an mailing list.

I think it's powerful.

What do you think?

Monday, September 05, 2005

I'm going to KILL...umm...hold on...I'm thinking...

So, can anyone tell me exactly why it's a big deal that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said he was going to "f*&^ing kill Google"?

I'm assuming we all understand that was rhetorical, right? And that Ballmer has a way of communicating that's shall we say, larger than life? And that anyone who's read Sun Tzu's "The Art of War" (and let's face it, that's just about every high tech exec, right?) speaks in pseudo-militaristic terms about their markets and competitors?

So, why is this the talk of the town?


Oh, and who would like to nominate themselves to be the competitor that I want to f*&^ing kill? Then we could get a bunch of attention and publicity too, eh?

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Audio Seminar on social software for the K-12 Educational market

Doing my normal bloggy spiel for a different sort of market: helping those in the K-12 education market understand how their customers' customers are using this software to connect, to communicate, to learn.

The audio seminar is hosted by Quality Education Data, and is taking place on Friday September 23rd from 9AM-10:30AM Pacific time.

it's open to anyone, even those outside the educational realm, so check it out if you're interested:

Blogs, Podcast, Advergaming, and More: Social Software as Tools for K-12 Sales & Marketing

To blog or not to blog

Jeremy Blachman makes the case for To Blog, in the NY Times no less.

Richard Dalton Jr makes the for Not To Blog in the Newsletter. Well, OK, let's be fair, he's not saying not to blog, he's just quoting the EFF's guidelines for "safer blogging." (Which basically take all the fun out of it if you ask me.)

I come down, as I always have, on the side of smart blogging, with a dash of "we need some protections" thrown in.

It's stupid to talk smack about your boss or your co-workers in a non-anonymous blog.
It's stupid (and illegal) to talk about inside information, whether IP or financially related.
It's stupid to say anything in your blog that you would get in trouble for if you told your girlfriend in the ladies room.
It's stupid to say anything in your blog that you would get in trouble for if you told a reporter.
It's stupid to take racy pictures of yourself in uniform or in your office at all and post them to your blog.

No one should be protected from the consequences of their own stupid actions.

BUT: bloggers should be protected from being fired simply because they have a blog. If the content does not cross any of the lines that would cause dismissal if communicated by another medium, then there should be consequences for the company that wrongfully terminates.

What am I missing that makes this so complicated?

Cross-Post: A podcast interview about HealthyConcerns and MedBlogging

After hosting Grand Rounds last week I was contacted by Dr. Kent Bottles from the Journal of Medical Practice Management to do a podcast interview about my perspective on both the Medical Blogosphere and the medical industry as a layperson.

Here's the link to the podcast I recorded on on Friday. (Quick work!)

It's always weird to hear your own voice. I invite you to hear the weirdness :)

Now they've asked me to write an article for the Journal about the 5 Things doctors offices could do to make the patient experience more efficient, professional, other words, pretty much the opposite of what it usually is.

So, if you have any brilliant ideas, go post them over here (where you can also see a couple of my initial thoughts.)

An alternate view on counting home page donation links

While I am here noting which companies are doing what about Katrina on their home pages, and having people leave comments about their company's efforts, Scoble is saying he is uncomfortable that this becomes a PR contest, and that he wishes Microsoft was judged by the actions of its employees (during company time) rather than their home page.

I left a comment that made some of the following points.

The vast majority of us can help by giving money. Yes, a (relatively) small percentage of people can help by volunteering...medical personnel, for example are being sought. And there's other great work being done to create web spaces for finding loved ones and other technically-related work. We can all donate blood too. Always good. The closer you get to the affected area the more tangible ways there are to help...up to taking in some American refugees. And colleges across the country are offering to take in students.

But for the majority of us, it's our money we can give.

And someone who works for a charity is welcome to correct me or flesh in my argument, but I'm betting getting donations is like any other sales's a numbers game, and you gotta ask a whole lot of people, or a whole lot of times to get a number of "hits." I want every company posting access to donation sites to constantly remind people, so that a higher percentage of people participate. If these companies are only doing it because it looks good I'm not sure that right now I care. They are helping to increase attention and hopefully increase participation.

[So I guess I should mention that Microsoft did finally get a home page link up, and if you follow it they not only list donation sites, but what other action they and their employees are taking. Disclosure: my S.O. works at Microsoft.]

Friday, September 02, 2005

I can't resist the carping, I just can't

Here's an example of what Technorati might have wanted to get under control before introducing their cool new tool.

See Technorati differentiates itself from Google by offering timeliness. See what people are talking about right now! So they say. But in fact most of my blogs link counts haven't been updated in ages.

I hosted the MedBlogosphere's version of a Carnival this week at Naturally I wanted to track who was linking to it. Naturally I would get a big bump this week.

But when I look on my account page the blog has the same link count it's had for weeks. And when I try to do a URL search, here's the message I've been getting since the beginning of the week:

"Sorry. We couldn't complete your search because we're experiencing a high volume of requests right now. Please try again in a minute or two. We're working hard to make our search results better. Thanks for your patience."


[Disclosure: Their RSS feeds on alerts seem to be working. Then again, how would I know if the alerts were missing anything?]

Point being: Technorati, your core services have been broken for a long time leading to increasingly vocal dissatisfaction and distrust in the blogosphere. I think it's a great feature to add the Blog Finder tool. And perhaps you think someone else was going to beat you to it and you needed first mover advantage. But you've taken a risk.

The New Technorati Blog Tool

Yes, I saw Niall's post introducing Technorati's new blog finder tool last night. Yes, I also read some immediate criticism of it. Yes, this seems to address much of what we said was woefully unavailable while at BlogHer.

And yes, I have been playing with it, and tagging my own blogs.

First major positive reaction: Yes, this is what we were talking about.

-The ability to self-identify...and in lots of different ways.
-The ability to search by niche, by topic, whatever you want to call it.
-I have already been using it for my business today, and have already found things I just couldn't find with key word searches. Or I only could have found after wading through lots of garbage.

The obvious potential negative (and some concrete ones.)

-It only seems to automatically pick up some categories, and not others. Which is weird. And just perpetuates my underlying discomfort with Technorati as a service...that it doesn't reliably deliver everything it says it will.
-They continue to have problems with being unable to handle the load they're under, and I do wonder whether they shouldn't have perhaps gotten that more under control before introducing a new tool that everyone was going to try.
-As the post above points out, there is some inconsistency in spelling and taxonomy. Perhaps if someone searches on PR, they should include reasonable variations.
-Yes, I can see how people could try to game this system with the self-identification stuff. Pick words that are popular and tag your blog with those words.But hopefully the folks behind those automated splog creations will take a while to automate blog tagging on them all!

And I confess, my biggest issue remains the fact that we do way too much of this particular search engine's work for it.

Yes indeed, people use SEO techniques to try to improve their rankings in Google. That's not my particular cup o' tea. I don't do anything particularly hard-core, and I do next to no SEO at all with my blogs (vs. my company web site, and yet I manage to be found. I don't need to tag or self-identify and certainly not with every post or page added. Why can't they do the same with blogs?

But, I don't want to leave you with my carping as the last impression. The fact is that this is what we were talking about, asking for, OK, demanding. And Technorati seems to be doing their best to deliver. I'm very pleased, and it will make my day-to-day operations at Worker Bees easier.

Because my sister asked me too...

My sister is a loyal HP employee and is outraged that I'm besmirching her employer's good name, all because their home page only got a tiny little link about Hurrican Katrina disaster relief up today.

Because she went to the trouble to research it (and therefore I didn't have to go to the trouble) and because she has requested a retraction or at least an update, here is what she found out that HP did for the tsunami in December, and is doing now for Katrina.

PS-HP PR department: I know my sister probably enjoys where she's at, but I think you've got a shining PR star in the making with her!

Hurricane Katrina message to employees
This week a devastating hurricane and flood hit the Gulf Coast of the United States, taking lives, destroying homes and businesses, cutting off water and power supplies, and leaving hundreds of thousands of individuals and families homeless. Most recent reports tell us that it will take weeks, if not months, for the area to begin to recover from this disaster. Our
hearts and thoughts go out to the families and individuals affected by this catastrophic natural disaster.

In response to this crisis, the HP Company Foundation is making a direct cash donation of $1M (U.S.) to the American Red Cross to assist with relief efforts. In addition, the HP Company Foundation will match employees’ financial contributions, dollar for dollar, through September 30, up to a total company match of $1M (U.S.). In order for HP employees to take
advantage of the match, their donations of up to $1,000 per employee must be made to the American Red Cross, World Vision or the Salvation Army through the HP GivingStation. These are organizations that have received widespread visibility in the national media as the major relief agencies providing on-the-ground services in the affected areas.

HP is also investigating making facility space at its Houston site available for disaster relief-related services. Various HP business units are evaluating opportunities to provide technology to the relief effort.

HP employees in the affected region are already engaged in volunteer and collection drives. For HP employees not in the immediate disaster area, we recommend you not initiate these types of activities at this time. Based on responses from relief agencies and reports in the national media, these activities could negatively impact the effectiveness of existing relief supply chains and congest transportation routes being used for critical needs and safety/recovery efforts.

We appreciate your interest in joining the HP Company Foundation in helping the families and individuals affected by this devastating disaster.

Summary of HP Tsunami efforts
More than 16,000 employees, 11 percent of the global HP population — donated a total of more than $1.8 million (US) to the tsunami relief effort through the company global match program. With the Company Foundation match, HP contributions reached more than $3.6 million.

Additional contributions from corporate philanthropy, country programs and product donations brought in nearly $770,000 more, bringing HP’s total cash, product and employee contributions to the tsunami relief effort to a whopping $4.4 million.

Employees around the world deserve a big thank you for contributing to this great effort. Your donations have helped more than 20 organizations provide aid to the stricken.

In addition, HP Philanthropy approved a product grant of $21,000 (US) to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The grant includes printers, scanners, a plotter and iPAQs to support the CDC’s Emergency Operations Center in Atlanta, Georgia.

This should make our family's Labor Day BBQ on Monday a bit friendlier :)

Thursday, September 01, 2005

UPDATE: Apple comes through on Katrina

Well, yesterday I was wondering where Apple was, but today they've got it together:

You can donate via their home page.

But perhaps more significantly, they sent an email to every iTunes customer urging them to donate and providing a link to do so through the iTunes Music Store.

So let's check up on the other companies:

Intel moves up into the Yes! category. As does IBM, Sun,

Motorola has a press release about how they're helping, but not a link so other people can help.

But Microsoft didn't do it.
HP didn't do it.
Oracle didn't do it.
Halliburton didn't do it (and God knows they could use the good PR.)

Really shocks me that HP, which really does try to project the image of a good citizen company was tone-deaf on both the tsunami and this. I'll have to talk to my sis about it!

UPDATE: Sis informs me that HP had an employee donation matching program for the tsnuami and has announced one for Katrina too.

Well, I certainly wouldn't have thought of this...

How to use Comment Spam to your advantage?

I must admit this would never have occurred to me.

Leave those cheesy, "Great site, I will come back often" comments, but delete their spam links.

I mean it's kind of fun in a revenge is sweet way, but the point is that comment spam is tedious to deal with, and now you're talking about spending time editing it instead of just trashing it. Not sure a series of near-meaningless praise statements is worth the trouble.

He gets points for finding the silver lining though.

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